Campaign History of the 151e Régiment d'Infanterie - XVIII

~ 1916 ~

The Somme - Second Tour - (17 October - 6 November)

30 September: The 2 and 3 Bats. remain at Camp 12 in the Bois des Célestin. At dawn, 1 Bat., 1 MG Co. and the CHR march to Ferme Bronfay. At noon, these units board trucks and are taken to Camp 12.

1-16 October: The entire regiment is at rest at Camp 12. The next day, an instruction schedule resumes with advanced infantry tactics in the morning and specialist training in the evening. This training will continue from 2 to 15 October. A detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Division Depot (DD) composed of 11 officers and 379 troops. These are comprised of :
Sous-Lieuts. Gautier and Jubert
Aspirants Gund, Bouret, l'Huillier, Lefèbvre, Unvoas, Fraissard
Adj-Chef Testé, Adjs. Lanche and Mercier
1 sgt-major, 1 sgt-four., 3 sgts, 1 cap.-four., 13 caporaux
260 men.

On 3 Oct. Lieut. Conduzorgues takes command of 7 Co. and on 4 Oct. Lieut. Bourgoin is promoted definitively to capitaine. On 7 OCt. a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Division Depot (DD) composed of Lieut. Auriac, Sous-Lieut. Giroux, 11 sgts., 11 cap., and 2 men. Also arriving on this day are the following separate detachments of reinforcements:
1 adj., 1 sgt., 2 cap., and 65 men coming from the 34 RI deport
2 cap-fours., 5 cap., and 145 men coming from the 131 RI

On 11 October Lieut. Cormier, previously evacuated, returns and takes command of 3 Co. A detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Division Depot (DD) composed 1 sgt., 2 cap., and 8 men. On 12 Oct. Sous-Lieuts. Basteau, Lamothe de Mondion, and Thiebaud are breveted to lieutenant. On 13 Oct. a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Division Depot (DD) composed 13 men.

On 15 Oct. Capt. Rousseau arrives from the DD and is assigned to 3 Bat. as the adjudant-major. Sous-Lieut. Bouchez arrives from the 347 RI and is assigned to 10 Co. Meanwhiile, Capt. Le Boulanger is brevetted to chef de bataillon. On 15 Oct. a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the DD composed 1 sgt., 1 cap., and 7 men. On 16 Oct., Lieut. Pennec arrives from the 18 RI and is assigned to 1 MG Co., while Lieut. Tessier from the same regiment is assigned to 7 Co. Another detachment arrives from the 147 RI composed of 1 adj., 1 asp., and 1 sgt-major. In the evening, Lieut.-Colonel Moisson and two officers from each battalion head up to the front to scout the regiment's sector.

The quality of some of these reinforcements was doubtful in Asp. L'Huillier's mind:

Our battalion is rebuilt with reinforcements coming from the Divisional Depot. Our company received those who've been "shirkers" since 1914 in the depots of different regions and even factory workers, sent back to the front for disciplinary reasons. We must not only train them but also inculcate them with our magnificent spirit.
17-22 October: During the afternoon, the regiment boards trucks and is taken to Maricourt. At night it will move up to the front lines to relieve the 155 RI in the trenches skirting the west -- southwest corner of Bois de St-Pierre-Vaast. This marks the line where the regiment’s progress had been stopped the day after taking Rancourt. Now, its mission was to simply organize their positions into a defensive sector and hold the line against enemy counter-attacks. Once in place, the regiment is arrayed as follows: on the right, 1 Bat. with two companies (1 and 2 Cos.) in the first-line and one in support (3 Co.); on the left, 3 Bat. with two companies in the first-line (10 and 11 Cos.) and one in support (9 Co.); 2 Bat. in support in Tranchée Jostow. The right limit of the regiment’s line is at point 1566, in liaison with the 89 RI. The left limit is at the intersection of the Béthune Road and Sailly-Saillisel Road, in liaison with the 162 RI.

By this time, the weather had made a distinct change for the worse. Gone for good was the hot sunny weather experienced on those fateful first days when they’d launched their heady attack. The rainy autumn season had set in, as the clay earth turned into a sea of liquid mud. For twenty-one days, the men would have to hold on, sunk up to their waist in sticky mud. Bordinat attested to general situation:

If in the first period we had to suffer from thirst, this time it was not the case. The memory will never fade for those like me who had to undergo these trials, where death was summoned more than once.

In addition to everything, the position was poorly placed with the enemy situated on the wood line and better hidden from us, harassing us constantly with all sorts of projectiles. And when stuck in this mud, it was very difficult for us get out of harm’s way.

On the first full day of being back in the trenches work on a cover trench behind the first-line trench is begun and barbed-wire entanglements erected in front of the first-line and between the first-line and the new cover trench. The 2 Bat. work to organize Tranchée Foragas in anticipation of occupying this trench, while also constructing a cover trench 100 meters behind it. Losses for the regiment on 18 October include 1 killed (Sgt. Wabaut) and 5 wounded (Cpl. Brouquaret; Sdts. Laboulais, Delcambre, Baptiste, Roussel).

On 19 October the men are put to work building and strengthening dugouts, as well as digging new boyaux. Losses for the regiment on 19 October include 4 wounded (Cpl. Briodot; Sdts. Le Corre, Aucelin [sp?], Fustier). Sous-Lieut. Garbau coming from the 71 RI is assigned to 5 Co.

The next day the 3 Bat. shifts 50 meters to the right in order to be in close liaison with 1 Bat. The two battalions continue to work relentlessly on maintaining their positions and to complete the cover trench. The 2 Bat. also provides a company of workers to 3 Bat. to help with this task. The other two companies of 2 Bat. labors away in Tranchée Foragas.

The work is made even more exhausting by the unending rains, which causes the trenches to flood and the walls of the trenches to collapse everywhere. Considerable effort is spent simply bailing out the trenches and in trying to fixing the cave-ins. Meanwhile, out in front of the first-line the men struggle through the morass of No-Man’s-Land to erect barbed-wire entanglements, especially where the 1 and 3 Bats. meet and where the 1 Bat. connects with the 89 RI on the right. All the while, German artillery violently bombards the first-line trenches, particularly the new cover trench.

To the men sitting in the flooded trenches, these daily and night bombardments made a horrible situation all the worse. Ironically, the rains which had transformed the battlefield into a swamp helped to absorb the blast and fragments of the shells and many failed to burst all together. One evening stood out in particular for Bordinat.

I will always remember, having managed to build for myself a small shelter in the wall of the trench, a 77 had the audacity to cross the parapet and go into a small hole right next to my head. I can still see this gleaming thing before my eyes. Wanting to touch it with my hand and feeling it get burned, I let it go, strolling away as quickly as I could for fear that it would blow up. A useless precaution since if it had burst, I would no longer be on this world.

Tired of standing in this dark night, wading through the water, I asked my comrade for advice, who begged me not to touch it, since it could still explode at any moment. So I waited some time in the pouring rain and exhausted, I steeled myself and carefully threw my evil guest behind the parapet without further incident. I regretted not having acted earlier and quietly, I went back into my little hole completely numb with cold from the rain.

Losses for the regiment on 20 October include 1 killed (Sdt. Darchy) and 1 wounded (Sdt. Perrot).

Map of the 151's positions before the Bois St. Pierre Vaast on 20 October 1916.

Work continues into 21 October under the same conditions. The 3 Bat. is told it must complete the cover trench by the next morning to be used for of an operation to be carried out on Tranchée Reuss. A company from 2 Bat. is sent to assist the 3 Bat. to help achieve this goal. The Germans opposite become increasingly agitated by this work. Enemy artillery respond with intense barrages throughout the day but targeting areas behind the regiment’s first-lines, likely with the intention of striking any reinforcements be pushed up. From 1420 to 1730 hrs, they unleash an uninterrupted barrage of tear and poison gases behind the 151’s first-lines. The 2 Bat. in particular suffers the effect of these attacks, though fortunately only two men succumb to gas poisoning. Losses for the regiment on 21 October include 1 wounded (Sdt. Bayeux [sp?]).

The work is made even more exhausting by the unending rains, which causes the trenches to flood and the walls of the trenches to collapse everywhere. Considerable effort is spent simply bailing out the trenches and in trying to fixing the cave-ins. Meanwhile, out in front of the first-line the men struggle through the morass of No-Man’s-Land to erect barbed-wire entanglements, especially where the 1 and 3 Bats. meet and where the 1 Bat. connects with the 89 RI on the right. All the while, German artillery violently bombards the first-line trenches, particularly the new cover trench. Losses for the regiment on 20 October include 1 killed (Sdt. Darchy) and 1 wounded (Sdt. Perrot).

The dangerous and deplorable conditions at the front made carrying out routine chores the most difficult of endeavors. During one night while the regiment's lines were under violent German artillery fire for hours, leveling the trenches to nothing more than shallow gutters, Laporte was ordered to lead a resupply party to retrieve as many machine-gun cartridges as possible. Taking advantage of a lull in the fire, Laporte set chose the five fittest men available, with the mission of bringing back at least 12 boxes of cartridges, each weighing about 25 lbs. The party departed at 0230 hrs under a steady rain. They would have to traverse 800 meters to get to their destination, through oceans of water and mountains of mud. All the while, artillery shells plummeted continuously around them, throwing up towering chutes of water as they burst in the swamped ground.

Along the way, they came upon a depot packed with flares. When the group was only twenty meters away, there was a massive explosion suddenly went off very close by. A German shell had landed right in the middle of the depot. The men instantly flattened themselves into the mud and for what seemed like an eternity, an incredible fireworks display raged beside them. Night turned into day from the hundreds of shooting and bursting flares. When the last flare had gone off, the men picked themselves back up and continued on towards the munitions depot.

At last they arrived at the munitions depot, the journey of having taken more than an hour. Their experience at the previous place convinced them to not linger around, so they quickly took what they needed and got on their way. Each man took two boxes of cartridges and after a taking a quick breather a short distance away from the depot, the party set back off to their lines. As they made their way back, the German bombardment intensified. Fortunately the only shells falling in the vicinity were German 77s, which Laporte (with a degree of bravado) claimed were "much less dangerous than our 75s."

Laporte’s heavily laden party had managed to slog back half the distance through mud, water, infinite craters, ceaseless explosions. Suddenly a shell screamed down out of the sky and burst right in the middle of the group. The force of the blast knocked three of the men to the ground, though they recovered immediately having held on fast to their precious cargo. Laporte had not fared as well: he felt a violent pain in his head and something warm running down his right hand. Reaching his hand up to his head, he found it covered in blood. Blood also flowing profusely from his ear and he’d gone completely deaf. Laporte’s comrade, Caporal Karoff, grabbed onto him and both men fell into a water and mud filled shell-hole filled. Karoff was moaning in pain, his right arm nearly cut off at the elbow. Both men were rapidly sinking into filthy porridge that filled the hole and would have drowned if not for their comrades who dragged them out.

Laporte attempted to take back up his two boxes but no matter how he tried, he could no longer hold onto them. The remaining uninjured men had to take on the additional load as best they could before all started again, Laporte and Karoff helped each other along. After a few hundred more torturous meters, they eventually made it back to their lines.

Upon seeing these wretched men return from their chore, Laporte’s captain was moved. After having distributed the boxes, he personally accompanied Laporte and Karoff to the first-aid post that was a short distance to the rear. There, entering into the light of the underground post, Laporte realized that the whole right side of his greatcoat was covered in blood and suddenly he felt his strength leave him. Meanwhile, Karoff, his right arm dangling by a shred of flesh, had lost consciousness from loss of blood. After both men had received injections, Karoff was quickly operated on, bandaged and then laid out to rest on a stretcher.

Laporte’s head was wracked with a violent headache as he awaited to be seen. When the major-doctor at last inspected him, he cleaned and bandaged his wound and pronounced his diagnosis: burst right eardrum from a puncture caused by a shell fragment, with strong external hemorrhaging. Laporte was laid out next to Karoff where both slept until the next day. The next day they received additional injections. Outside the shelling had continued unabated though with less intensity.

We had recovered a little bit of our strength and we felt like we could cover on foot the distance to Le Forest farm. There, vehicles would take us to the rear. There was no question of being evacuated by the stretchers in the trenches at this time, and we had to get to the from before daylight. Around 3 am the major gave us permission to leave. Our captain had come several times to check on us, and before we left we made our goodbyes. Who knows? We had to over at least two kilometers through shell-holes, in the rain, under fire. I supported Karoff by his left arm and with much difficulty and with some suffering, we arrived in the vicinity of the farm around 4:30 am.
At Le Forest farm Laporte and Karoff are loaded into a truck and driven to Amiens. The long ride over potholed roads was filled with jolts that inflicted only more pain on the injured evacuees inside. Once the jarring journey is over and they finally arrive at Amiens, they are moved into the Hall of Justice, which had been converted into a temporary hospital. Not long after their arrival, and despite the large Red Cross flag laid over the roof, the hospital is bombed by long-range German bomber planes and more dead and injured must be looked after. Laporte and any other wounded who could be moved were quickly assembled and evacuated. From Amiens, Laporte was transported to Caen and then to Bordeaux, where he was operated on and had a small shell-fragment removed from the side of his head. For Laporte, the war was over. He would serve out the rest of the war at the regimental depot at Quimper before being demobilized in the beginning of 1919.

Sous-Lieut. François Bouchez (KIA 26 Oct. 1916)

On 22 October the attack on Tranchée de Reuss between 742 and 472 is carried out by a battalion of the 162 RI with the 5 Co. of the 151 RI operating in support in the Tranchée Négotin. The time for the attack is scheduled for 1800 hrs but during the course of the day it is rescheduled for the next day. Moreover, orders are changed such that instead of the 162 RI carrying out the attack, it will be the 2 Bat. of the 151 RI (commanding by Cmdt. de la Ruelle). The 6 and 7 Cos. along with the 2 MG Co. are sent to the first-line in view of the attack. They must be in place by 0500 hrs on 23 October. The 1 and 3 Bats. remain in their same positions but during the day, the 3 Bat. and the left of the 1 Bat. pulls back to the cover trench in order to allow the artillery greater opportunity to strike the German trenches without fear of injuring their own men. Losses for the regiment on 22 October include at least 2 killed (Sous-Lieut. Francois Bouchez; Sdt. Car [il.]) and 13 wounded (Sous-Lieut. Garbau; Sgt. Chopinet; Cpl. Delvaire, Thuret, Delvault; Sdts. La Guerm, Dozias, Allorent, Cherrier, Prieur, Petit, Bedout, Segouzac).

23 October: The 6 Co., 7 Co., and 2 MG Co. are in their positions in the departure positions at 0500 hrs.

I. Order of Attack: L’Huere-H (“zero-hour”) is set for 1500hrs. Assault Dress: no packs, blanket rolls, two sandbags, six grenades per grenadier, three grenades for other men, three days rations, canteens full of water. The VB rifle grenadiers will carry ten grenades each.

The assault companies must put three section in the first-line forming two waves, the first wave composed of grenadiers and rifle machine-gunners (assault rifle gunners), the second wave composed of free troopers (voltigeurs) and VB rifle grenadiers. A third assault wave following immediately behind the second will be composed of trench-cleaners (12 grenadiers under the command of a sergent). The fourth section of the company will form the fourth assault wave in a single line behind the company.

II. Objectives: The right company (6 Co.) will has an objective the right half of Tranchée de Reuss starting from point 472. The left company (5 Co.) will has an objective the left half of Tranchée de Reuss up to point 742. The companies are to seize the trench and organize into an impregnable defensive position. As soon as the trench is taken, Ruggière (Bengale) ground flares are to be lit in order to mark out the line. Additional Ruggières are to be lit zero-hour 30 minutes and 60 minutes. One-fire flares are to also be sent up every hour at five minutes past the hour.

III. Liaisons: A platoon of 7 Co. on either side of 5 Co. A section of machine-guns will march in the center of the second wave of 5 and 6 Cos. and will follow the movements of these companies.

IV. Attack Route: All units are to be in position for the 1500 hrs zero-hour by 1430 hrs. Latest intelligence indicates that Tranchée de Reuss is completely destroyed and very likely has no more defenders. The advance is to made at the walk up to the objective.

Special instructions to the commander of 7 Co.: to the left of 5 Co. will be Montcalm’s and Leclercq’s sections (first platoon), respectively, while to the right of 6 Co. will be the other two sections (second platoon). Montcalm’s section must depart at the same time as the first assault wave, rushing upon point 742 and establishing a solid barricade furnished with rifle machine-guns. The barricade must be well-defended and held at all costs. The two sections two the right of 5 Co. must always maintain the liaison by fire and by advanced elements with Montcalm’s section and the 5 Co. The two section to the right of 6 Co. must always maintain the liaison between the 6 Co. and the 3 Bat.

At 1500 hrs 2’ the 7 Co. must move to point 472 to erect a strong barricade. Therefore, 7 Co. must erect two barricades in Tranchée de Reuss, one on the right and one on the left. Tools and sandbags are to be distributed to the men for this purpose. It’s mission is to protect the right of 6 Co. at all costs and counter-attack in the case of need. A section of machine-gun is provided to assist in this mission.

Special instructions to the commander of 2 MG Co.: the sections which are with the 5 and 6 Cos. must depart with the second wave of these companies. The right section which is with the 7 Co. (Lieut. Teyssier) must conform to the movement of this platoon and to assure the security to the right in liaison with 3 Bat. The left section which will include a 37 mm cannon and Leclercq’s section (7 Co.) must maintain the liaison between Montcalm’s section (7 Co.) and the left battalion of the 162 RI. It must secure with an impregnable fire the gap which will exist between Montcalm’s section and the 162 RI.

V. Execution of the Attack: At 1500 hrs the 5 and 6 Cos. leaves the parallèle de depart. The 6 Co. advances up to the "military crest" where it is stopped by machine-gun fire coming from 472 and the machine-guns which were also placed in front of the Tranchée de Reuss. The 5 Co. is still immobilized under artillery barrage fire. The 6 Co. with great difficulties and effort that it maintains itself in its position, despite the barrage fire and the continuous machine-gun fire. The 37 mm cannon is unable to effectively deploy into action. At point 472 there is a well-protected machine-gun nest, the methodical destruction of which must be pushed forward and which will act to check any operations on the Bois St. Pierre de Vaast.

At night fall, with the help of the Engineers Co. 6/3, the 6 Co. digs a trench at the position it was stopped at along a 50 meter front. The engineers connect this trench by a boyau to the parallèle de depart. This boyau will be extended ultimately up to the Béthune Road. This new trench at presently takes the form of a ‘T’. The 5 and 7 Cos. had worked to organizing and improving their positions. Throughout the entire night, the German artillery heavily bombards the new positions being dug out by elements of 6 Co. Losses for the regiment on 23 October include 12 killed and 16 wounded (incl. Sous-Lieut. de Mondion and Gautier).

24 October: After having past the night in cooperation with Engineers Co. 6/3 to organize the ground taken. The 5 and 6 Cos. are pulled out and sent back to the support trench to the south of Rancourt. These units are replaced by the 1 Bat/162 RI, while 7 Co. is left in Tranchée Négotin in support of 1 Bat/162 RI (which is weak in effectives). Losses for the regiment on 24 October include 1 killed (Sgt. Gaillard). Sous-Lieut. Pégou is definitively promoted to lieutenant and Lieut. Verbanck is definitely promoted to capitaine.

25 October: During the course of the day an artillery duel rages. French artillery bombards the Tranchées Forestière, Reuss and [Bois de] St. Pierre Vaast with precision. German artillery responds by heavily bombarding the regiment’s first-lines. All units remain in the same positions except for 9 Co. and 2 MG Co., which move up the line into the 3 Bat.’s sector to cooperate in a new attack on Tranchée de Reuss scheduled for the next day. Losses for the regiment on 25 October include 11 killed and 6 wounded. Sous-Lieuts. Guillot and Trannoy, previously evacuated, return to the regiment.

Left: Map of the village of Bois de St. Pierre Vaast on 26 Oct. 1916 (source: JMO 42 DI engineers). Center: Map of the village of Rancourt and Bois St. Pierre Vaast on 26 Oct. 1916 (source: 151 RI JMO). Map of the 3 Bat/151 RI positions before the Bois St. Pierre Vaast on 26 October 1916. (source: 42 DI records)

26 October: The units of 3 Bat. along with detachments of various other units are in place at 0400 hrs in readiness for the attack on Tranchée de Reuss. The following orders are issued by Cmdt. Le Boulonger, commander of 3 Bat. who is in charge of the attack.

I. Order of the Attack: The first detachment is to depart from listening post 'A' (from the 10 Co. position), bounding out of the post to take the German listening post 'B' by surprise. It's mission will be to quickly establish two barricades in 'V' and 'E' to stop from this direction any German counter-attack in the Tranchées [Bois St. Pierre] Vaast and Forestière, then to move towards point 'P' in the direction of point 'D' (northwest corner of Bois St. Pierre St. Vaast and point 1472). The second detachment is to depart from point 'D', making a barricade at point 'O' (Tranchée de Reuss) and to go down to point 'D' to meet up with the first detachment.

II. Composition of Detachments:
1) Northern Detachment - under command of Sous-Lieut. Erkens
- 1 sergent-grenadier, 4 active grenadiers (throwers), 2 wire-cutters
- 1 FM (rifle machine-gun) gunner with 1 caporal-fusilier
- 2 Schilt flame-throwers and 4 special grenadiers with 1 engineer officer
- 4 supply grenadiers, 1 FM gunner, 4 VB rifle grenadiers
- 1 flare signaler assigned to the detachment leader
- 1 resupply team: 1 sergent and 10 men, 4 special flame-throwers in reserve of point 'D'

1) Southern Detachment - under command of Adjudant Vermenlen
a. Tranchée St. Vaast Group:
- 1 sergent-grenadier, 4 active grenadiers (throwers)
- 1 caporal-grenadier, 1 FM gunner, 2 wire-cutters
- 2 Schilt flame-throwers and 4 special grenadiers with 1 engineer NCO
- 4 supply grenadiers
- 1 FM gunner with 1 FM caporal - 2 VB rifle grenadiers

b. Tranchée Forestière Group - under command of Adjudant Vermenlen:
- 1 sergent-grenadier, 4 active grenadiers (throwers)
- 1 FM gunner
- 2 Schilt flame-throwers, 4 engineer grenadiers with 1 engineer NCO
- 1 FM gunner with 1 FM caporal
- 1 4 VB rifle grenadier
- 1 flare signaler assigned to the detachment leader
- 2 Schilt flame-throwers in reserve at point 'A'
- 1 resupply team: 1 NCO and 12 men

III. Reconnaissances: recon parties detailed to the area of action and in particular the exit breaches will be sent out in the afternoon with the detachment leaders in the neighboring sectors so as to see all the ground. Patrols are sent out out at night fall to reconnoiter the edges of the enemy listening posts to practice opening breaches in the French wire. The listening posts of 10 and 11 Cos. will be pushed 20 meters further out this night to be within a short jumping distance from the enemy listening posts.

IV. Disposition of Attack: At l'Heure -30' the Northern Detachment will be placed in the following order: the lead in the listening post of 11 Co., it's left in the Tranchée de Négotin. The Southern Detachment will be placed as follows: Tr. St. Vaast Group, Tr. Forestière Group will have at the same time their lead elements in the listening post of 10 Co. , its left in the portion of Tranchée St. Vaast occupied by the regiment. Capt. Rousseau will see to the placement of these detachments.

V. Execution of Attack: NOTE: act with surprise and speed. The opening of the attack at 0400 hrs is preceded by a two minute preparatory barrage by VB rifle grenades on the enemy listening posts and the areas behind them. The VBs progressively lengthen their fire for the Northern Detachment up to Tranchée Reuss where the barricade will be maintained for two minutes. A VB barrage will be done for the Southern Detachment up to the bifurcation of Tranchées St. Vaast and Forestière with the forester path leading to the Ferme du Governement, where the barrage will be permanent. These VB barrages must be in place 30 minutes before l'Heure-H.

The Northern Detachment will erect a barricade 30 meters to the northeast of the bifurcation of Tranchées Négotin and de Reuss. It will post at this barricade 4 grenadiers, 1 FM gunner, and 2 VB rifle grenadiers. The rest of the detachment will move on to meet up with the Southern Detachment in the Tranchée Forestière. The Southern Detachment will first have its Tranchée St. Vaast in this trench where it will erect a barricade 50 meters from the German listening post. A new barricade 50 meters from the VB listening post will be made immediately at the bifurcation of the Tranchée Forestière at the forester path.

The detachment of Tranchée Forestière will immediately depart the listening post of the 10 Co. to attack, deploying grenadiers in Tranchée Forestière towards point ‘P’. A barricade will be erected to the south in this trench at the top of the German listing post ‘B’. After posting at this barricade 4 grenadiers, 1 FM gunner, and 2 VB rifle grenadiers, the Southern Detachment will link up with the Northern Detachment. The boyaux branching off from Tranchée Forestière and leading into the woods will be scouted out and guarded during the course of the progression.

Covering of the Flanks: The two sections of machine-guns in position will cover to the north, the left flank of the assault from the north, to the south, and the right flank of the assault from the south.

37 mm cannon: Observing point 1472, the northwest salient of the forester house and the ridge to the north of this front.

Occupation of the Position: At l’Heure-H, two sections from the 9 Co. with one section of machine-guns will take the place of the Northern Detachment, with the other two sections and a section of machine-guns taking the place of the Southern Detachment. At the order of the battalion commander, these will move forward and occupy Tranchée Forestière, 1472, and the southwestern part of the Tranchée de Reuss, respectively, via the Boyau Négotin and Tranchée St. Vaast. One section of machine-guns will establish itself at the northwest corner of the Bois St. Pierre Vaast and the other at the northwest salient of the forester house.

Assault Dress: No packs, rifle, bayonet (except for FM gunners), 120 cartridges, 5 magazines for FMs; one haversack to hold 1 days rations, second haversack to hold grenades; 1 canteen full.
- Active grenadiers (throwers): belt, 15 OF grenades, 5 F1 grenades
- Reserve grenadiers (suppliers): belt, 10 OF grenades, 3 F1 grenades, 1 sack of 8 FM magazines, 1 filled sandbag
- VB rifle-grenadiers: 12 shells in the haversack
- Resupply party: will carry 2 open crates of F1 grenades and 2 open crates of VB shells, over 100 sandbags in packets of 25.
- 9 Co.: no packs, half with shovels, half with pickaxes, 2 grenades, 1 sandbag per man

IX. Liaison, Signaling: Signal the arrival at 1472 and at the southern part of Tranchée Forestière with Ruggière (Bengale) pots and by shooting off 1-fire flares. The attack by 10 Co. to be made on the left after the raid is successful and three flares are sent up from the observation post at Arbre Signal. The 9 Co. must link up with the 162 RI, which will be to its left in Tranchée de Reuss.

X. Earthworks: Two teams of workers provided by the 10 and 11 Cos. must, after the success of the raid, connect the listening posts in Tranchée Négotin and St. Vaast, preparing the Tranchée Négotin up to Tranchée de Reuss.

X. Resupply: A material and munitions depot will be set up in the evening in the listening posts of 10 and 11 Cos. and must include: 200 OF grenades, 200 F1 grenades, 200 VB shells, 50 FM magazines, 100 filled sandbags, 100 empty sandbags.
PC at the observation post at Arbre Signal where intelligence reports must be sent.

l’Heure-H for the attack is set for 0545 hrs.

Execution of the Attack At 0545 hrs the Southern Detachment sets off toward the German listening post ‘B’ in two groups: one marching toward the forester’s house into the Tranchée St. Vaast, the other toward Tranchée Forestière. The latter group is taken by strong machine-gun fire coming from Boyau 19, ending up a little to the south of the forester’s house. It returns to the Tranchée St. Vaast group. The commander of this group tries to push up the Tranchée St. Vaast up to the forester’s house with the intention of then moving on point ‘D’. It gets up to the house but being taken there by machine-gun fire coming from the point indicated higher up, it is forced to fallback to a more favorable spot. Near point ‘V’ it sets up a barricade.

The Northern Detachment quickly sets up its barricade and pushes into a portion of Tranchée Négotin that is occupied by the enemy, making it up to point ‘D’. There however a strong counter-attack by German grenadiers coming from ‘DO’ and ‘DB’ forces the detachment to pullback 40 meters into Tranchée Négotin. The 9 Co. is immediately called upon to support the movement and a violent grenade fight ensues.

It would be necessary to have the heavy artillery fire on the intersection of parallel 557 and the path branching off 150 meters to the northeast of the forester’s house, and to direct it gradually in parallel to Tranchée Forestière where the machine-guns are really placed, stopping all movement by the Southern Detachment. It would also be useful to fire along the path from the forester’s house up to the Government Farm to the point indicated higher up, following the path and lengthening the fire a little ways to the south in the direction of point 1867.

A note arriving from Cmdt. Le Boulanger at 0814 hrs reports that digging for liaison boyau is started connect the French listening posts and that there are continued German counter-attacks to the north and the south. Around 1030 hrs the progress is no longer possible and the attack is stopped. Losses for the regiment on 26 October 5 killed (including Sous-Lieut. De Blay) and 25 wounded.

27 October: During the day enemy infantry is more active than usual. The Germans respond vigorously to the regiment's VB fire with rifle-grenades and light minenwerfers. Laporte describes a German raid that could well have been the heightened enemy activity described in the JMO. It was the middle of the night when a sudden, brief bombardment by German light artillery indicated to them that a raid was imminent. Laporte describes what happened next:

We were on high-alert and the guns were sighted on each of the combat sectors. Suddenly the canons stopped, replaced by bursts of machine-gun fire. Immediately, [German] flame-throwers rose up. The Germans leave their trenches to come roast us like rabbits. But despite some losses suffered in our lines, we responded in a furious way.

Flares sent up from our lines signaling the 75s to lay down a barrage fire had only just gone up when the rapid and heavy fire of our machine-guns stopped the Germans just as they were arriving at our trenches. [The flame-throwers exploded]. We watched the Germans burn with the death machines they wore on their backs. Those passing through who had escaped were shot down before reaching us. A second German assault wave suffered the same fate.

The lopsided fire-fight had lasted for an hour as scores of German soldiers were slaughtered for no gain. One of those to die in the ranks of the 151 was an old friend of Laporte’s, Caporal Chassut. Chassut was one of the few remaining troops who Laporte had gone through basic training with at Quimper and then sent up to the front the previous spring.

On the night of 27 October, 7 Co. in reserve in Tranchée Négotin is sent back to its old emplacement in the support trench to the south of Rancourt. The 3 Co. in reserve in this support trench is sent up to the first-line in the 3 Bat.’s sector in preparation for a new attack on Tranchée de Reuss to be done the next day. Losses for the regiment on 27 October include 3 killed (Sdts. Gillet, Bordier, Germinon) and 3 wounded (Sdts. Claude, Choron, Herault).

28 October: The 3 Co. only arrives in its attack position around 0430 hrs owing to bad weather and excessively muddy terrain, which makes any movement very difficult. The 3 Co. must be supported in the attack by Schilt Co. 22/10 Co. (flame-throwers) and by the 10 Co. of the 162 RI.

I. Order of Attack: Cmdt. Le Boulanger is in command. Surprise attack on the salient in order to take and hold it.

II. Objectives: To be executed in liaison and simultaneously. For the 3 Bat.: salient ‘D’ from the intersection of Tranchée de Reuss with Tranchée Négotin to the north up to a depth of 80 meters to the south of point 1872. For 10 Co/162 RI: Tranchée de Reuss from the intersection with Boyau Négotin to the south up to a depth of 100 meters from this point to the northeast.

III. Earthworks: In order to get the 10 Co/162 RI opposite its objective, a departure trench from the 151 to the north of Négotin will be dug in the night of 27-28 October by a working party from the 151.

IV. Reconnaissance: A reconnaissance of the ground and enemy lines bordering the zone of action will be made this afternoon by the commander of the companies involved and their section leaders.

V. Disposition of the Attack: At 0400 hrs on the 28th, the 3 Bat/151 RI and the 10 Co/162 RI must be in place in the departure trenches, the 3 Bat. having its right in the Tranchée St. Vaast and its left in the Tranchée Négotin. The 10 Co/162 RI will be in close contact with the 3 Bat. There will also be four Schilt flame-throwers in place on the right of the attack group, four to the left, and four in the center. The greatest silence must be observed. No movement can be made outside of the Boyaux St. Vaast and Négotin, which are to be evacuated by the 10 and 11 Cos. Of the 151 at 0330 hrs. These companies will leave in place only their grenadier and VB posts.

VI. Execution of the Attack: By surprise and simultaneously in a single bound the attack companies are to take the enemy trench. A signal to be ready to jump off will be sent at l’Heure-H -5’ consisting of three flares sent from the observation post at Arbre Signal. Bayonets are only to be fixed at this moment. The VBs will continue their fire on the target trench up to l’Heure-H -5’. The VBs at the post in Tranchée St. Vaast will make a barricade in the Tranchée Forestière at the height of the forester’s house. The VBs at the post in Tranchée Négotin which will carrying out a suppressing fire on the Tranchée de Reuss will cease firing at l’Heure-H.

The Schilt flame-throwers will go into action upon arrival in the trench. Those on the wings will be used to enlargen the front and permit barricades to be easily established. Two in the center will be used to clear out shelters, while the remaining two will be in reserve. Listening posts will be immediately pushed for into the interior of the woods. The boyaux branching off from Tranchée Forestière and leading into the woods will be guarded by grenadier posts.

Covering of the Flanks: Assure by the two machine-gun sections in position and by the FM rifle machine-gun groups placed at the listening posts in Tranchèes St. Vaast and Négotin overseen by the 10 and 11 Cos.

37 mm cannon: Observing the machine-gun nests which are located at the point where the German boyau leaves the forester’s house and leads off to the east, cutting across the ridge parallel to the Tranchée Forestière a little to the north of point 1867.

Machine-guns: Two sections in place at 0500 hrs, one in Tr. Négotin, the other in Tr. St. Vaast behind the attack groups. They will move forward after the attack group arrives in the trench. A machine-gun section will set up at the northwest corner of the Bois St. Pierre Vaast (1472), while the other section will set up at the salient northwest of the forester’s house.

Occupation of the Sector: By the 10 and 11 Cos. The 9 Co. will be ready to counter-attack.

Assault Dress: No packs, 1 canteen filled, 120 cartridges, two days of rations in the haversack.
- Grenadiers: belt, 15 OF grenades, 5 F1 grenades
- VB rifle-grenadiers: 12 shells in the second haversack
- FM gunners: 8 magazines, in the pack
- Voltigeurs (“free troopers”): 5 sandbags, 5 F1 grenades in the second haversack

Liaison, Signaling: Signal the arrival in the enemy trench by lighting green Ruggière (Bengale) pots and sending up 1 fire flares. The 3 Co. will endeavor to link up with 10 Co/162 RI, which will be to its left in the Tranchée de Reuss.

Boyaux: Teams of workers will be made ready by the 10 and 11 Cos. of the 151 RI to connect, via Tr. Négotin and St. Vaast, the departure trench to the Tr. de Reuss and Tranchée Forestière.

Resupply: Two materials and munitions depots will be set up beginning in the evening by the 10 and 11 Cos. and must include: 200 OF grenades, 400 F1 grenades, 200 VB shells, 50 FM magazines, 100 filled sandbags, 200 empty sandbags, 2 rolls of Brun wire.

Command Posts: 3 Bat. commander's PC will be at the Arbre-Signal observatory. Those of 10 and 11 Cos. will be at their respective listening posts.

V. Execution of the Attack: At 0535 hrs the attack is launched. However, the enemy was in a vigilant state and in the final minutes remaining before the attack is begun, had sent up a number of red globe flares as well as illumination flares. After investigation, it's found that these flares were a signal to the enemy machine-gunners to be ready at their guns, the gunners then responding "Ready" by firing a few isolated shots.

It had to be a disconcerting sign to the attack troops. Nonetheless, the attack went off as scheduled and is immediately stopped by intense machine-gun and artillery fire. The surprise now being lost, at 0620 hrs, Moisson orders Le Boulanger to use the flame-thrower teams to try to push up the two previously erected barricades with the intention of connecting up to Tranchée Forestière, after making a barricade to the north and another on the sid eof forester's house. Le Boulanger organizes this operation to take place at 1045 hrs.

At that time, the attack recommences. The progression through Boyau Négotin goes well but the wind is unfavorable for the use of flame-throwers, making their use impossible. The progression is then stopped in the Boyaux St. Waast and Négotin by enfilading machine-gun fire. Despite all the difficulties, the Northern Detachment advances well and a violent fight ensues with the enemy. Though the scales tip in the 151's favor, a machine-gun begins to sweep the Boyau Négotin and stops all forward movement. With no further advance possible, Moisson calls off the attack at 1130 hrs.

At night the 3 Co. which had made the attack is pulled out of its advanced positions and sent back to the support trench south of Rancourt. The 6 and 7 Cos. provide workers to the 162 RI to create parallèle de depart in front of the French lines opposite Tranchée de Reuss in preparation for an attack on this trench. Losses for the regiment on 29 October include 1 killed (Sdt. Zagosky) and 5 wounded (Sdts. Lefeuve, Gloagnem, Lelong, Dhinault, Signoles).

30 October: Strong storms sweep over the land, flooding the trenches and causing the walls of the trenches to disintegrate, the shelters to collapse, and the boyaux to fill in. The mud becomes over 18 inches deep or worse and makes circulation in the trenches very difficult. Both sides exchange rifle grenade fire throughout the day. At night, the 2 Bat. once again provides workers to dig out the departure trench, work that requires superhuman efforts to complete. Many were now approaching the limits of their endurance. Bordinat lamented on the state of the men:

Despairing to ever get out of this quagmire, our feet were numbed and hunger gnawed at us. Because the thing that made it even more difficult was going on resupply duty, where matters forced us to take turns doing it for over four hours at night. At every moment, we plunged into the water-filled shell holes and were unable to climb out on your own without assistance. Otherwise you would drown, as was the case for many. You get the picture.

Often the supplies were lost in these holes and upon arriving, we shared with our brothers what we managed to bring up (wine or bread) in order to not starve to death. I was often forced to share a cup of wine and a small piece of bread, dirty with mud, with four comrades for the whole day.

Also, ranks were visibly diminished, half of us having frost bite because of the water. Murmurings are starting up everywhere, we’re beseeched to stay a few more days, and despite the good will of all, it’s demoralizing. If the weather was nice we would be bored but not a day went by without it raining. We are in a terrible state and covered with mud from head to toe, all our limbs numb, we bemoan our fate.

Losses for the regiment on 30 October include 1 killed (Sdt. Bulot).

31 October: Throughout all the day, French light and heavy artillery (75s, 155s, 270s, 280s) execute a well-regulated and effective fire on Bois St. Pierre Waast. German artillery only responds weakly. All units remain in their same positions, except for 9 Co. which goes back into the support trench south of Rancourt in order to dig out the boyaux and cover trenches. Starting at 0600 hrs, all elements of 3 Bat. and the left elements of 1 Bat. evacuate the trenches to the east of the Béthune Road in order to allow French artillery to fire without the risk of striking their own.

During the night, the 22 BCP moves into the lines and takes up position in the parallèle de depart dug opposite the Tranchée de Reuss to attack it the next day. The 2 Bat. provides workers to complete the departure trench in order to link it to the first-line trench. The 6 Co. is sent behind the right battalion of the 162 RI in support. Losses for the regiment on 31 October include 2 killed (Sdt. Bonnec, Bocquet) and 1 wounded (Sdt. Guiletto).

Map of the 151's positions before the Bois St. Pierre Vaast on 1 November 1916 (source: 42 DI records).

1 November: All day long French light and heavy artillery bombards the Tranchée de Reuss and the Bois St. Pierre Waast where enemy machine-gun nests are concealed. In order to allow French artillery to better strike the German first-line, the 3 Bat. and the left of 1 Bat. evacuate their first-line trenches and move back to the cover trenches. The attack by the 22 BCP will take place at 1415 hrs. Lieut.-Colonel Moisson will be in command. At noon, Moisson sets up his combat command post in the cover trench behind 10 Co. At l'Heure-H, the 22 BCP goes over the top and seizes Tranchée de Reuss (excluding point 1472) and in spots pushes into the woods to observe the ground in front. The units of the 151 which had evacuated their positions before the attack now return and reoccupy their first-line trenches. To assist the 22 BCP in its progession, 1, 10, and 11 Cos. bombard the German lines with VB rifle-grenades. Losses for the regiment on 1 November include 2 killed (Sdts. Sevin, Loison) and 1 wounded (Sdt. Nativel).

Map of the French front near Rancourt on 2 Nov. 1916, from AFGG. Link to the complete map can be found here.

2 November: During the day, the artillery of both sides duel away with each other. During the night the 1 and 3 Bats. in the first-line are relieved by 63 BCP. Bordinat proclaimed:

Finally the suffering is at an end. After twenty-one days spent in this bloody quagmire, we are relieved by an unknown group of chasseurs [the 63 BCP]. Walking on our swollen feet is done with the greatest of difficulties...a few who had the misfortune to lose their shoes and unable to recover them and are forced to go barefoot.

It feels like you are walking on thorns or small sharp stones. What pain! But courage helps us and we arrive at a place called Le Priez Farm where we spend another three days in reserve in old Boche trenches.

On the same day, another local German attack will lead to L'Huillier sustaining injuries a third time in the war.
At 0700 hrs another German attack. This time in front of our battalion front. The enemy occupies part of the trench of my third squad. I shout to my men: "Get up! Forward, bayonets! We progress to our right through the trench. I set an example by going ahead of my poilus and throwing grenades at two fleeing Boches who follow two prisoners. I set off in pursuit of them.

A German grenade explodes near me, I am wounded in the face, left thumb and left thigh. I fall into a hole full of water as a German shell burst near me, and partially buries me. I must stay in this situation given the fire of the German machine-guns which whistle past my ears.

At night, my orderly helps me out of my hole and supports me. I drag myself to Lieutenant Bastaud's PC who consoles me a little for having to leave my dear poilus by telling me: "My dear L'Huillier, you've been recommended for a citation in the Orders of the Division for your good conduct on 25 September. Come back to us soon."

Helped by my brave Duschene, I go to the regiment's first-aid post. Major Idraque applies three bandages to me. A nurse takes me to the divisional stretcher-bearers station located in a ravine near Maurepas. The road seems so long! I am transported to Le Forest where I get into a medical truck with other wounded. Arrived at the evacuation hospital at Cerizy at 0800 hrs and depart by medical train for Amiens and the interior zone on 4 November.

The regiment remains in the division reserve sector in the following emplacements: 2 Bat. in the support trench to the southwest of Rancourt (6 Co. rejoins the battalion at night); 1 Bat. in the Tranchée Le Priez and Tresto; 3 Bat. at Combles (save 9 Co. which bivouacks in Bois Savernack). Losses for the regiment on 2 November include 3 killed (Sgt. Gabert; Sdts. Guilbert, Lacroix) and 2 wounded (Sdts. Mace, Pellerin). Capt. Bourgoin, previously evacuated, returns to the regiment and retakes command of 10 Co.

3 November: The units of the regiment arrive at their encampments at 0500 hrs after an all-night relief march an extremely difficult because the of deep mud and German artillery barrages. Losses for the regiment on 3 November include 2 killed (Sdts. Loriette, Monichon) and 3 wounded (Sdts. Desoblin, Trequesser, Malbec).

4-5 November: The regiment remains in its same emplacements. During the night, the companies of 2 Bat. have the unenviable task of transporting munitions up to the 22 BCP in the first-line in Tranchée de Reuss. Losses for the regiment on 4 November include 1 killed (Sdt. Le Buan) and 4 wounded (Sdts. Boisson, Samson, Moreau, Haristoyet). There is no change in emplacements the following day. The regiment remains in its camp. Losses for the regiment on 5 November include 2 wounded (Sdts. Fourmier, Lamour).

6 November: In the night of 5-6 November, elements of the 40 DI relieve the 151. After the relief, the battalions move off separately to Suzanne where they arrive between 0600 and 0800 hrs. There they are loaded into trucks and transported to Gournay[-sur-Bray]. The regiment is billeted as follows: regimental staff, CHR, and 2 Bat. at Guy Saint Fiacre; 1 Bat. at Dampierre; 3 Bat. at Saint Aubin.

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